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The Venice Vivialdi heard and loved

Don't just take a water tour of the city. Let venice's many sounds carry you away, too.

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Everyone else comes to Venice for its canals, its architecture, its museums and monuments. I come in search of Antonio Vivaldi, considered by many to be the greatest baroque composer. The first to effectively capture the sound of weather in his great concerto, "The Four Seasons," Vivaldi lived and worked in Venice all his life.

His city vibrates with the melodic tones of the Italian language, the sloshing noises coming from the canals, the eerie grunts and groans of a land slowly sinking, and the everyday noises of living. Vivaldi captured all of this in his music, effectively painting pictures with his notes.

His violin compositions express a wide range of emotions. A music lover who doesn't know the finer points of the score can still identify the time changes in "The Four Seasons": the freezing chill of winter overcome by lighthearted notes of spring; the vibrant rhythm of autumn harvests conquering the sultry tones of summer.

Vivaldi's music envelops the listener in sadness, happiness, or joy - whatever emotion the maestro desired.

As a boy, Vivaldi was taught to play the violin by his father, but eventually he studied to be a priest. Ordained when he was 25 years old, the "Red Priest" (so nicknamed because of his flame-colored hair) gave up saying Mass pretty quickly, claiming the incense aggravated his asthma.

He was also known to leave in the middle of a Mass to scribble down a few musical notes dancing in his head.

A visitor on a budget, I board a vaporetto (water bus) to explore Vivaldi's watery home, because a gondola - while romantic and appealing - is much more expensive. The Grand Canal, the main highway of the city, has a grid of lesser canals that form side "streets." The vaporetto slices through the water creating diamond-tipped waves that first slap against the buildings and then swish back.


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